Rick Pluta | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

Rick Pluta

Reporter / Producer - Michigan Public Radio Network

Rick Pluta has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.

Rick was one of the first Michigan political reporters to write about “pay-to-play” fundraising, and the controversies surrounding recognition of same-sex relationships. He broke the news that Gov. John Engler was planning a huge juvenile justice overhaul that included adult-time-for-adult-crime sentencing, and has continued to report since then on the effects of that policy decision.

He co-hosts the weekly segment “It’s Just Politics” on Michigan Radio with Zoe Clark.

Rick is fascinated by the game of politics, and the grand plans and human foibles that go into policy-making. You will never find him ice-fishing.

Follow him on Twitter at @rickpluta

Hand holding rainbow LGBTQ flag
Stavrialena Gontzou / unsplash.com

A petition campaign to add LGBTQ protections to Michigan’s civil rights law is deciding its next steps.

That’s after a U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday that LGBTQ rights are already guaranteed by federal law.

slemboskilaw.com/

Michigan’s courts will likely face a surge in eviction cases if a moratorium is lifted at the end of the month. The state Supreme Court is planning ways to help avert people being removed from their homes for failure to pay rent.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer first signed the order in mid-March to avoid people being turned out of their homes for non-payment during the COVID-19 crisis. Before then, courts processed about 17,000 eviction cases every month.

Michigan State Police car
Joe Ross / Flickr - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order to expand the commission that sets law enforcement training standards. 

Her order adds the state’s civil rights director to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, which sets rules on licensing and training police officers. Most of them represent law enforcement groups. 

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a law that allows Enbridge Energy to build a tunnel so it can continue to move oil and natural gas liquids through a controversial Great Lakes pipeline.

Line 5 runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

pride flag
Liam McGarry on Unsplash

The campaign to add LGBTQ rights to Michigan’s civil rights law has more time to collect signatures, but not in time to make the November 2020 ballot.

That decision came Wednesday from a Michigan Court of Claims judge. She said restrictions on gatherings due to COVID-19 deprived the Fair and Equal Michigan campaign of the right to petition the government. But she also refused to reduce the required number of signatures.

Jocelyn Benson
Benson for Secretary of State

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified Tuesday before the state Senate Elections Committee.

The first-term Democrat asked the committee to back efforts to keep voting places clean and safe to avoid spreading the coronavirus in the August and November elections.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Training in conflict de-escalation and recognizing bias would be required of all law enforcement officers in Michigan under a bill adopted Thursday by the state Senate. The bill moved quickly as protests against police brutality continue across the state.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer testified Tuesday before a congressional subcommittee on the state’s COVID-19 response. As of Tuesday afternoon, 5,553 people in Michigan are known to have died from the disease.

Whitmer just lifted restrictions on many business operations and public gatherings. But the governor said she’s very concerned about the upcoming flu season.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium
State of Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer describes comments made by President Donald Trump during a phone call with the nation’s governors Monday as "dangerous."

The call focused on weekend protests that turned violent.

Garlin Gilchrist
Facebook video screengrab

Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a video statement Sunday in response to demonstrations across Michigan over the weekend against police brutality.

Whitmer was joined on the video by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. They both said anger over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis is justified. But they asked people to find non-violent ways to express their frustration.

gretchen whitmer at a press conference
michigan.gov

As Michigan faces a more than 22% unemployment rate, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is encouraging business owners to call back workers even if it’s just part-time.

A Michigan Court of Appeals panel says a lower court judge got it wrong by refusing to enforce an order to shut down Owosso, Mich., barber Karl Manke, who gained fame or notoriety for cutting hair in defiance of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 emergency orders. The orders include a ban on barbers and hair salons doing business during the declared crisis.

VW showed off their Gold TDI Clean Diesel at the 2010 Washington Auto Show. The company has since admitted to evading emissions standards for the last seven years.
wikimedia user Mariordo / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan has joined 22 other states and the District of Columbia to challenge an effort to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards.

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the lawsuit Wednesday.

The lawsuit claims new federal rules are illegal and would set back efforts to fight climate change.

testing swab
Shutterstock image

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order that allows pharmacists, nurses, and physician assistants to authorize COVID-19 tests.

It also says Michigan residents can not be charged out-of-pocket costs for the test.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium
michigan.gov

A conservative legal foundation has filed a new challenge against Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s ability to issue new emergency orders related to workplaces and the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Mackinac Center says the governor’s earlier orders have succeeded in slowing the pace of new COVID-19 infections.

The lawsuit says the governor’s orders now exceed her authority under emergency management laws.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium
michigan.gov

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has won a legal victory tied to to her executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thursday, a Michigan Court of Claims judge ruled Whitmer has the power to declare consecutive states of emergency without waiting for the Legislature's approval.

MICHIGAN.GOV

Governor Gretchen Whitmer is continuing to slowly re-open Michigan's economy.

Her latest order will allow retail stores and auto dealerships to re-open Tuesday, May 26. It also authorizes non-essential medical, dental, and veterinary procedures to begin Friday, May 29.

Small gatherings of groups of ten people or fewer, are allowed immediately, as long as participants practice social distancing.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA)
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan’s official jobless rate jumped to 22.7%.

The seasonally adjusted number shows Michigan lost more than one million jobs from March to April. The hardest-hit sectors were manufacturing and hospitality.

That number is higher than at the peak of the Great Recession.

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state Senate could adopt and send a bill to Governor Gretchen Whitmer that would reduce the penalties for violating orders she’s signed to deal with COVID-19 in Michigan.

The bill would reduce the penalty for violating an order from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction.

Gov. Whitmer
Cheyna Roth / Michigan Radio

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she has talked to members of former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign team about being his running mate on the November ballot.

But Whitmer told the “Today” show in NBC she’s not aware of any formal vetting for the position.

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
michigan.gov

The Legislature’s Republican leaders Friday asked a Michigan Court of Claims judge to place restrictions on Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s power to declare a COVID-19 state of emergency.

They say Whitmer cannot continue to declare new states of emergency every 28 days without legislative approval.

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

About 200 to 300 protesters gathered Thursday in front of the state Capitol to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Others stayed in their vehicles and beeped their horns as they drove through downtown Lansing.

Gretchen Whitmer at a podium
michigan.gov

The state has ordered 31,000 public employees to take furlough days temporarily to help deal with the impact of COVID-19 on the state budget.

Stay-at-home orders and business layoffs have reduced economic activity, which means less tax revenue. And the state is required to keep its budget balanced.

Gretchen Whitmer
State of Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she’s concerned that “angry rhetoric” may turn into physical violence and turn back progress made to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan.

Michigan State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The commission that governs most public areas of the state Capitol says more study is needed on the question of guns in and around the building.

The Michigan State Capitol Commission voted six-to-one to delay a decision.

The question gained urgency following a Capitol protest where many people carried guns. Some yelled from the gallery at lawmakers voting on the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

head shot of Dana Nessel
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says the commission in charge of running the state Capitol is allowed to ban guns inside the building.

She gave that advice Friday to the Michigan State Capitol Commission, which controls public areas of the building.

Michigan Capitol Building
Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Legislative Republicans announced Wednesday morning they have filed a lawsuit in the Court of Claims over Governor Gretchen Whitmer's decision to extend her emergency declaration despite the request being rejected by the Legislature last week.

Calling her unilateral actions unprecedented and unconstitutional, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said they had no choice to ensure the Legislature has a say in the response to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The drug company Pfizer is producing an experimental version of a COVID-19 vaccine at its facility in Kalamazoo.

The company says that test version will be used in clinical trials that are already underway.

It’s one of several potential vaccines that have been approved for control group testing.

Abigail Censky / WKAR

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says protests at the state Capitol where demonstrators displayed Confederate flags and swastikas don’t represent most Michiganders. She defended the state and her efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 on national television.

Polls suggest there’s wide support for Whitmer’s handling of the health crisis in the face of protests at the Capitol where some people waved Confederate flags, displayed nooses and swastikas, and many did not follow social distancing rules.

Pages